Posted by: New in Every Way | February 3, 2014

My House or His

house_small

As research for the novel I am writing, I am saturating myself with the four gospel narratives of the life of Jesus. A bit of dialogue that stood out to me a couple days ago is the first conversation between Jesus and his first two disciples. These two men–who, at the time, were disciples of John the Baptist–were present when the Baptizer pointed Jesus out, describing him as the Lamb of God.

house_largeThey said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him (John 1:37-39 NIV).

One of the common conceptions of Christians is that we need more of God in our lives. That’s absolutely true. But we tend to see it as a matter of adding Christ onto our already-existing life. Jesus’ first two disciples had a different idea. They didn’t invite Jesus to come to their village to preach. They invited themselves to his campsite or wherever he was staying to spend time with him. (Sounds pretty bold to me. Or did they just stammer out the first thing that came to their minds–which was what was in their hearts? Whichever it was–I love it.)

At any rate, these Galileans (Andrew and maybe John) had rare insight into how to get more of God in their lives. They didn’t try to fit a little of him into their life, they decided to join him in his.

They understood how to really fill a cup (or, in this case, their lives). You can hold a cup under a faucet and collect all the water it will hold. Or you can submerge the cup in a lake. The water will not only completely surround the outside of the cup but will surge into it. Andrew and John had the second idea of how to get more of God in their lives. They decided to jump into the water of Jesus’ world. No wonder he later chose them as two of his twelve trainees for apostleship.

They didn’t invite him to live in their “house,” they moved all the way into his.

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Posted by: New in Every Way | January 23, 2014

Longing to Belong

FriendsWhere did this come from–this desire for connectedness with other people? There may be several reasons, but the one that trumps all others, to my way of thinking, is this: God is highly social, and he created us in his image.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have never been alone. They always have each other’s company, and thrive in it. The strong bond of love and partnership that exists among them stands out to me in examples like these:

  • Twice, when Jesus was on earth, the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.”
  • John 3:16 does not say: “The Son so loved the world that he came, so that whoever believes in him should not perish . . .” If I had written it, that’s what I would have said. After all, Jesus loved us so much he volunteered to die for us. But Jesus highlighted his Father’s love: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son“–showing amazing empathy for how hard it was for his Father to send him.
  • When Jesus described for his disciples what the Holy Spirit would do for them, he said,  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me” (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit’s whole passion is to help us know Jesus better.

The three Persons of the Trinity are each other’s greatest fans. They know what a rich relationship is all about. It shouldn’t surprise us that such a social God would say:

“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

God sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6).

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Why do we crave connectedness to God and to people? We were created for close, supportive relationships–relationships full of delight and satisfaction. Don’t be afraid to talk to God about your social needs and challenges. He will help bring health into that part of your life.

Posted by: New in Every Way | January 16, 2014

I Belong to Somebody

A pesky fly kept hovering around my three-year-old granddaughter Nikki and me as we glided back and forth on the porch swing. I brushed it away a few times then began singing a folk tune:

Shoo, fly; don’t bother me

Shoo, fly; don’t bother me

Shoo, fly; don’t bother me

For I belong to somebody.

Nikki & Connor

Nikki & Connor

Flippantly, I asked Nikki, “Do you belong to somebody?”

She nodded vigorously.

“Well!” I thought, “I wonder what she’s thinking.”

I soon found out. In a tiny whisper, she said, “Mommy, Daddy, Baby Connor.”

She had a warm, secure sense of belonging.

Some of us don’t. The good news is: regardless of the breakdown of human relationships, we can all feel special and connected–because of God’s overwhelming love for us.

There are some statements in the Bible that melt my heart.

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself (Exodus 19:4 NIV).  The Lord is talking here about how he rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and brought them–not “to Mt. Sinai,” not “to the the Promised Land,” but “to myself.”

As Jesus rode in Jerusalem a few days before his arrest and crucifixion, he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 NIV). 

During Jesus’s last prayer in the company of his disciples, he prayed first for his disciples then for all who would believe on him. In that part of his prayer (which includes me, and hopefully you) he said:  “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (John 17:24). It wasn’t good enough to finally be returning to his home in heaven–he wanted to take his beloved followers with him.

Such is the tender affection of God toward us! Such is his desire to gather us into a relationship with him that will heal our hearts and put us on the path to total fulfillment.

I just re-read today some words by Francis Frangipane, founder of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He said that “everything that defines us” is influenced by what we believe about the true nature of God. “If we do not believe God cares about us, we will be overly focused on caring for ourselves. If we feel insignificant or ignored by God, we will exhaust ourselves by seeking significance from others. However, once we realize that God truly loves us . . . we can find rest and renewed power for our souls.” *

There’s not one of us who cannot “belong to somebody”–to God, our maker, our shepherd, our redeemer, our Father, our divine friend. What if you want to believe that, but you’re just not feeling it? Read the Bible, looking for his care and his affection. Think deeply about it. Talk to him. Tell him you want to really know him.  You want to know he loves you. He has been waiting for you to ask.

 Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:8 NIV).

___________

*Francis Frangipane, And I Will Be Found By You, (Cedar Rapids: Arrow Publications, 2009), p.83.

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Posted by: New in Every Way | December 12, 2013

SUPER Solutions

skyscraperThere are solutions, and then there are SOLUTIONS. If you have a problem right now, you’d probably prefer a SOLUTION.

So did a blind man called Bartimaeus, whose story appears in the Bible. One day, while he was hanging out by the side of the road begging, a noisy crowd came his way. When he found out the Rabbi Jesus was in the crowd, he began to shout out to him. Long story short—Jesus stopped and asked him what he wanted.

Now Bartimaeus could’ve said, “I need a seeing-eye dog, but I’m on a long waiting list.” Or he could’ve said, “If you could just get me a white-tipped cane so I can get around town. . .”

But—no! He wasn’t interested in stopgap solutions. He didn’t want minimal relief. What he really wanted was . . . well, let’s see:

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see” (Mark 10:51 NIV).

He wanted to see. He didn’t want natural aids to cope with blindness; he wanted a SUPERnatural end to the blindness.

Have you set your sights too low when you pray about your situations? Are you afraid to ask God for what you really want? Don’t be. He does not have favorites. What he asked Bartimaeus applies to you: “What do you want me to do for you?”

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Have you asked for what you really want but not received it yet? The Bible is full of instruction in the art of believing and receiving. That’s the next step after asking. Some previous posts on believing and receiving are:

Mustard Seeds and MountainsHe Didn’t Let Go, and Vending Machine or Parent

 

 

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Posted by: New in Every Way | November 2, 2013

Nested Worlds

Nested BowlsHave you ever stepped into a foreign embassy? If so, you were in a country-within-a-country. This situation impacted the lives of a family we knew in a Latin American country. As they drove onto the grounds of the Brazilian embassy, seeking political asylum, local guards opened fire, killing the father. The mother and children were arrested. But the embassy stood behind the survivors, because they had been on Brazilian soil. They rescued these family members from the police and conducted them safely out of the country.

The most unique “embassy” on earth is the one Jesus established. He called it the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. With this kingdom came the customs and power of heaven.

The scriptures I shared in my last post showed Jesus operating as king of this new kingdom—healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and even commanding a storm to cease. While he was yet on earth, he sent as many as seventy of his followers out to do the same kind of thing. After he ascended into heaven, the apostles and other believers continued to exercise that  authority over natural situations like sickness.

Doesn’t that interfere with natural laws? No, not really. God did not create sickness. He did not create the world to have turbulent weather that harms people and destroys trees and animals. This kind of degeneration set in when mankind turned their backs on God and came under the evil influence of satan. When Christians pray for restoration of this physical world, they are taking seriously a phrase from The Lord’s Prayer: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

You might say Christians are little islands—or embassies—of the kingdom of God in the midst of the broken world order. A world within a world. And the blessings and protection of that kingdom work, in spite of hostile natural circumstances.  For example, Carol, one of my best friends, saw Matthew 6:33 work for their family.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food and clothing] will be given to you as well. 

Carol and her husband Bruce agreed with several other couples that their town needed a Christian school. Bruce, being an attorney, devoted himself to the business end of setting up this school. Carol was concerned that their income would drop off as he spent less time at his own work. To her amazement, a steady stream of clients sought Bruce out, without advertising, and that year ended up being one of Bruce’s most prosperous ones.

Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom were arrested during World War II by the Nazis in Amsterdam for hiding Jews in their home. Betsy managed to take with her a bottle of vitamin drops. After they arrived at a concentration camp in Germany, she began to share her drops with ailing women. Corrie begged her to stop giving them out because Betsy needed the drops for her own health. But the drops never ran out! Just as the flour and oil never ran out provision for the widow of Zarepheth.

When my father first arrived in the Dominican Republic as a missionary and went on his first tour of the churches, a believer from a coastal village took him to the scene of a miracle. One Sunday morning, the man told him, members of his church had gathered for worship, when they felt an earthquake. Looking out, they saw that the ocean had receded, leaving a long stretch of bare beach. A tsunami! The water had disappeared into the rift caused by the earthquake. The people knew it would soon surge back toward the land in a huge tidal wave.

The only way to escape the wave was to take a boat across the river and run to higher ground. But as they ran toward the river, the tidal wave charged up the river, taking the boat with it. The Christians fell to their knees and began praying. Only one person—a visitor—kept his eyes open and watched. He saw the water part and thunder past on both sides of the praying people on the beach, leaving them unharmed.

How about you? If you have believed on Jesus as Savior and pledged your allegiance to him as Lord, does it make sense to settle for health issues, economic distress, broken relationships, and out-of-control weather? You can hold out for restoration of every aspect of your life. And while you’re at it, you’ll help raise the world around you back to its original state.

 

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Posted by: New in Every Way | October 25, 2013

A Whole New World

I am not surprised to see that various websites feature John Ortberg quotes. He has a way with words. My personal favorite is not taken from one of his books–it is a story I heard him tell from the pulpit of Willow Creek Community Church, which I attend when I visit my brother and sister-in-law in the Chicago area.

The Sunday I heard Ortberg he was visiting from California, where he now pastors. When Ortberg moved to California and told folks he was from Illinois, none of them seemed impressed. Finally, he asked someone about that. The man said, “I have promised myself that I will never live in a place where–if I lock myself out of my house–I could die.”

Well, true! Illinois winters, especially in the Chicago area, are brutal compared to California’s. (But too tame for a couple of my friends who grew up in Wisconsin and northern Michigan.)

Can you imagine what the Ortberg’s first fall and winter in California was like? They did not have to drag out their flannel-lined pants or snow boots. They couldn’t have bought snow shovels and sidewalk de-icer, if they had wanted to (unless they visited a mountain community).  They were in a whole new world.

SunriseThat’s what happened 2000+ years ago when Jesus arrived on planet Earth. He transformed the world–for those who received him then and those who receive him now.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:7).

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:1, 5-7).

Notice, Jesus didn’t command them to preach, “Salvation is at hand.” He told them to say, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And which aspects of the kingdom of heaven did he instruct them to practice? Healing, raising the dead, and casting out demons.

Previously, Jesus had demonstrated another facet of his kingdom.

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27 NIV).

Now, these few scriptures may not be proof enough of what I am going to say next. Check out the Bible for yourself and see whether it really does say this:

Jesus came to earth to save his whole creation from the effects of the Fall.

  • He came to save our souls from sin and eternal separation from God.
  • He came to save our bodies from sickness and degeneration.
  • He came to restore the natural world to be a safe home instead of a sometimes-hostile environment.

Ok, if he came to do all these things, why is it that only the first one has manifested in any widespread fashion? Here’s a clue:

19 For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. . .  

21 [so] that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children (Romans 8:19-21 AMP).

A lot depends on us–the stewards he has appointed for this earth. When Adam and Eve (whom God had placed in charge of this earth) fell out of fellowship with God, all of creation began a downward spiral. Now that Jesus paid the redemption price for us, we are set free from that cursed state, and–if we accept our assignment–we can be channels through whom God can restore the earth to the blessedness of the Garden of Eden.

Want some examples of how this works? Tune in next week . . .

Posted by: New in Every Way | October 10, 2013

Too Good to Be True?

I found out the hard way that E 85 is not good for a Honda CR-V. It uses gas that is 5% ethanol (or is it 10%?) but not 85%.

Now, I’m no dummy. When I buy a car that requires Regular, I don’t pump it full of Premium (even if it’s cheaper, which thankfully it hardly ever is). I certainly don’t use kerosene or diesel. So why did my vehicle end up in the service department with a tankful of E 85? It so happened that I filled up at a different gas station than usual, and didn’t notice that the fuel choice on the right end was E 85, not Regular.

My point is this: The human brain and entire body operate correctly on positive, faith-filled thoughts, not negative, stressful ones. Just like a car operates properly on Smiley Facegasoline, not kerosene. What does that say about our Creator? To me, it says that he did not intend for us to ever be anxious. Is that too good to be true?

It is common to feel noble about anxiety: I’m anxious because I am responsible. I can’t tolerate the possibility of my plans working out badly. Or–I worry because I love my children. I can’t bear the thought of anything harming them.

How about asking for God’s wisdom and blessing on your work then operating in trust and confidence? How about committing your children to the Lord’s care and protection then telling them the Lord will bless them and enable them do whatever is necessary?

The two quotes below from the Bible carry surprising news.

1 Blessed is the one

2 . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

Did you notice? Both of these passages promise fruitfulness, prosperity, and success. If we do what? Think deeply about God’s ways and obey them. Not by anxious striving.

How does that work? Partly because God’s requirements are wise. We will get better results doing things the way he says. And partly because, when we look to him and cooperate with him, he covers all the bases we cannot.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For . . . your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV).

1-2 If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves? (Psalm 127:1-2 MSG)

When bad things happen to you, have you thought It must’ve been God’s will. Did he tell you to put diesel-grade thoughts in your brain? Did  the anxious words that came out of your mouth agree with the Word of God? (Phil. 4:8)

Considering the bible passages above, would you say it is his will for you to fail or to succeed? Is it his will for you to lack or to have what you need? Is it his will for you to work long hours for minimal results–or to receive the Lord’s wisdom to work efficiently then sleep peacefully, knowing the Lord will prosper your efforts?

Why do we think that peace and blessing are too good to be true? The Bible is full of promises and stories that show God’s will for us is good. Where did we get the warped thought that worry and poor results are normal? Well, from experience. Not many people are thinking and living the way the above verses describe, so we don’t see many examples of how God intends things to be.

But the main reason we have such dim expectations of God and life can be seen in what happened to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Let me paraphrase what satan said to her that influenced her to eat the fruit God had forbidden. “I can’t believe God told you not to eat this fruit. It won’t harm you. It will make you wise like God. God’s holding out on you, girl.” The devil caused her to doubt God’s goodness. He’s been doing it ever since.

Are you going to fall for it? To believe that love, joy, and peace are impossible in this world?

How about meditating (thinking in a deep, personal way) on his ways and his promises? They are not too good to be true.

Posted by: New in Every Way | September 6, 2013

Called

What does this title call to your mind (pun intended)? A referee calling a game off because of lightning? A candidate calling an election because of a decisive margin of votes? A letter calling you to jury duty? Your coach calling you a good sport?

Just for fun, look up the word called on The Free Online Dictionary and you will find a kazillion other possibilities.

Hello

You will also find several meanings for called in the letter of 1 Peter. That is, the apostle states that God has called us to be and do various things.

The reason I mention this is because–as I was meditating on the verses containing the word called–I got excited. I thought maybe you would too.

So here are the four verses and my comments:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “I’m not so sure about this. I have a few bad habits I really would like to keep. Besides, the full light of God shining on me–I’m need ready for everything in me to show up clearly.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God has invited me to leave the closed-in world of night and enjoy the wide horizons of day. He has invited me out of the guesswork of darkness into the clarity and certainty of the light. He has invited me out of guilt to be clean and carefree.”

If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “I don’t even want to think about this. Fortunately, I live in the United States, so I don’t have to.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God is calling me to make a difference in this world. To live a life worth living.  What a privilege! Yes, I’ll make waves by standing out like this, but–I’ll know I did the right thing. I’ll enjoy self-esteem and a clear conscience.”

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “This sounds ‘way too generous and kind for me. I can meet people half-way if they are trying to get along with me–but this is too much.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God is calling me to initiate an aggressive brand of friendliness toward others. To see the good in people I’ve never appreciated before. To care about people who aren’t really related to me. If I do this, I’ll have deep relationships. I’ll belong. I’ll be at peace with everyone (whether or not they are at peace with me). The Lord promises I’ll be glad (be blessed) if I go out of my way to be good to others like this.”

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “What does this mean? I believe I’ll be in God’s eternal glory when I go to heaven, but what does this have to do with suffering and being restored?”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: ” Jesus was amazing (glorious) when he went to the cross. He kept his composure. He encouraged others. Then–he had the glorious last word by rising from death. The apostle Paul said, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Well, not any more. When I turned my life over to Jesus, he reinstated me into the gloriousness of God–into his inner power of love that radiates in glorious attitudes and actions–even in hard times.”

 

The good deeds you naturally tend to do, the ways you can figure out to straighten out bad situations–you don’t need God to call you to do those. You can do them on your own (pretty much). But God is calling you to so much more. Things you can only do because he says you can. Because he will make it possible with his own goodness and ability in you.

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Posted by: New in Every Way | August 15, 2013

Super Natural

SailboatYes, I know. It should be one word: supernatural. But I’m dividing it for a reason.

The usual way of thinking about the supernatural is that it is separate from nature. That it is separate from the world with its natural laws. That it is separate from people with their physical bodies and human personalities. Even though miracles do happen, and even though we sometimes know God is speaking to us, we believe these things are not supposed to happen very often. When we get to heaven, everything will be supernatural, but here on earth, things are natural–99% of the time. So most of us think. So I used to think.

The first crack in that type of thinking came when I read the gospel of Luke for the sole purpose of becoming better acquainted with Jesus. As I read it, I had to admit Jesus did not play by the rule that the supernatural has no place in everyday life. Since then, reading other gospels, I noticed something else about Jesus: he was surprised, and a little upset, when his disciples did not expect the supernatural to happen–whenever.

 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40 NIV).

The best way to explain what the Bible shows here is to use some illustrations–some parables, if you will.

Without wind, a sailboat merely bobs up and down on the waves. Without gas, a car stays parked. Without gasoline or electricity, an oven cannot turn a panful of batter into a cake.

There may be nothing supernatural in any of these examples. After all, a car is a natural object and gasoline comes from nature, as well. But they are examples of the Bible’s revelation that God created this natural world as one half of a divine equation.

Look at it this way: the natural world is like a computer–the hardware half of the equation. The supernatural presence and power of God is like the software that operates in it. God created us (the hardware) then breathed into us the breath of life (the software). Whether we are aware of it or not, his provision, protection, and guidance are with us every day.

When we get a revelation of this partnership, it’s like discovering apps that we didn’t know were on our computer. We can do things we had not dreamed possible. No, we’re not in heaven yet. But when we understand God’s place in our natural world, it’s like heaven on earth.

Let’s back up a minute. Aren’t unaided natural processes pretty remarkable all by themselves? Yes (although they’re not really unaided. I mean, God gave us the raw materials to construct boats and he gave us the wind to drive them). But using the natural stuff God gave us only gets us so far. Have you ever thought, There’s got to be more to life than this? That’s because there is. Do you have a deep, impossible dream? You’re glimpsing the super for your natural.

You know, even without gas, a car looks impressive. It even has some practical uses. A homeless family can sleep in it. With its rubber tires and metal body, it can keep a person safe from electrical shock during a thunderstorm.

But, are you satisfied with a car that doesn’t go somewhere? Isn’t “going somewhere” its main purpose?

What about gasoline? You can dampen a rag with it and wipe tar off your car. You can spray a bit of it on charcoal or wood to jump-start a fire. (Stay far away when you toss the match on it!) But oil refineries don’t work day and night to produce gasoline for these uses!

A car alone has its benefits, and gasoline alone has minor functions. But put them together, and–look out!

God did not create a great divide between the natural and the supernatural. Sin and satan caused that estrangement. Jesus came to re-unite us with God.

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18 NIV).

Notice–this does not say Christ died just to make it possible for us to go to heaven when we die. He mainly did it to bring us to God. To re-introduce us to the companionship and partnership with God that Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden.

Sin caused a detour.  Jesus died to remove the effects of sin. It wasn’t his main mission. It was a necessary first step–to get us back on the road with him. To bring us back into a life in which God is king. To put the super back into our natural.

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Posted by: New in Every Way | August 8, 2013

Good Riddance

Getting rid of trashFreedom. Even saying the word feels good. It’s the feeling students have when they leave school at the end of May or beginning of June. It’s in a man’s sigh of relief when he hands his tax return documents to his accountant. It’s the way a woman feels when–after long months of treatment–her doctor gives her a clean bill of health.

Throughout human history, there have been individuals who wanted freedom so badly, they were willing to risk their lives for it. Why is this? Because God programmed us for freedom. Because freedom is part of his nature.

. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

What is freedom? Being able to do whatever I feel like doing? Well, yes–unless what I feel like doing is going to harm me in some way. Unless what I feel like doing (zoning out in front of the TV) will keep me from making arrangements to go to a concert all my friends are going to. Then I’m not free to do something far more fun.

This zoning-out-in-front-of-the-TV feeling is what the Bible calls “flesh” (think: what feels good to my body right now) or “self” (think: self-indulgence).

Usually, I am only really free when I can–somehow–get over my “self.” I stumbled upon a way to do that when I was a teen. On the morning of a school holiday, my mom announced, “Today you are going to wash all the windows, inside and out.” My spirits hit bottom.

In my family, complaining was not allowed. Maybe just as well, because I learned how to deal constructively with my “I don’t want to.” As I mounted the step stool in front of the first window, an inspiration came to me. Inwardly, I said, “Okay!” in a cheerful sort of way. To my surprise, I no longer felt put-upon. The work didn’t seem to be that hard or to take that long. I had talked myself right into–well, not really wanting to wash windows, but at least not minding the job.

What I had learned to do was “deny” (not give into) my lazy “self” in order to be my cheerfully industrious self.

When the Bible talks about dying to self, it doesn’t mean that our personality, passion, and dreams die. Not at all! It means turning away from the self-centeredness, selfishness, and self-indulgence that keep us from being all we really want to be.

What does your best self look like? What good deed would you do today if you could get motivated? How wonderful could your relationships be if you quit trying to make everyone do things your way? In what awesome ways can you see yourself partnering with God, if you could get past your immaturity and inconsistency?

Christ calls us to freedom from our not-so-good selves. Would you like that? It is good riddance of bad rubbish.

P.S. Click here for more information about this freedom.

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